“Wealth used to be a trumped up aristocracy, now it’s an aristocracy of Trumps.”
Instant wealth redistribution, an end to ignorance and prejudice, equality through cooperative socialism, all these pipedream panacea: they’re just fodder for the dinner table conversation of wageslaves. Big concepts using words that represent large numbers of people feel compelling, powerful. Include these in familiar slogan solutions and your statements become titillating yet on point, relevant by dint of the contemporary use of meme but safely impersonal because talk about large groups deal in numbers so large they’re unreal to the point of abstraction. Abstraction is convenient but also hard to square with real human detail i.e. it’s easier to press the button that harms a million strangers than to wield a weapon that harms a single close friend.
Our social training has this abstraction hyperbole woven into its syllabus. There’s power in words and the more a word embodies, the more potent it can feel. With power comes responsibility but this is a concept most associate with a responsibility towards one’s nearest and dearest so we counterbalance power with distance by words that reduce people into a mob of strangers. “I won’t be supporting my children once they’re 18” is a long way from “Society shouldn’t give free healthcare and education to kids.”
Big words, power without responsibility, sweeping statements of ideology (power in action), this sort of talk feels important. Feeling important feeds our vanity. Vanity equates to success. It’s winning, not losing. It excites a frisson of pleasure in the brain and this teaches us we have done a good thing. But we haven’t, because it’s only words and slogans and no intention of acting. This may not be instantly picked up by our conscious mind, and indeed why should it, when self-criticism is the opposite of pleasurable? A crude example perhaps but nonetheless in this shortcut to success/pleasure in a microcosm can only be achieved repeatedly by keeping up a growing cognitive dissonance. It’s in this dissonant soil the twin evils of prejudice and identity politics find fertile ground to habituate a strangehold on a person’s whole way of thinking.
Or instead perhaps it isn’t reference to a group that’s giving force to what one’s saying. Self-importance has many tributaries. Opinion might be given on climate change, without any study, safe to speak stridently knowing full well the lack of relevance to your everyday live in the here and now. By stating an opinion we lay down a mark of ownership on the subject or object being judged and it hardly matters we know next to nothing about them. Ironically there’s an easier conceit in strong opinions about subjects or people one knows least about. Know too much about a subject and opinion is clouded by nuance, know too much about a person and there’s a complex of real-life feelings (and consequences) confusing the brain’s “did I win or lose?” algorithms in charge of dopamine reward. Once again this is an example of a ‘win’ using only imagined stakes, a cheat route to that microsecond’s pleasure at the cost of training expectation a little further into cognitive dissonance.
But what’s the alternative, in communicating with others, when there’s no smalltalk left and nothing needs to be explained or planned? We all want to feel important. It’s not bad to admit the need to express thoughts more significant than everyday banality. This is where CHOICE enters the fray, in a meaningful sense, for every “free” human on this planet.
Most Americans and Europeans mortgaged their future to the vicissitudes of the marketplace. There’s plenty wrong with having made this deal so early in life but there’s also better odds of success if we ambitiously follow the path well-trodden and take it seriously from the earliest possible age. The choice only becomes a problem when opinions become abstract self-aggrandising where the inevitable dissonance that results with the ‘win’ includes hypocrisy to balance the reality algorithm all brains must keep in equilibrium. For example: comfortable liberal middle manager damning the weak ineffectual socio-economic system he or she lives and works within, crying “communism!” or “white power!” from the garden cooking sausages on the barbeque. The dissonances come from many angles here: this system is one that’s broken you to submission, not by force but by satisfying laziness, comfort and material things. You know you won’t lift a finger against the status quo of sugared slavery because it was a CHOICE. But to let this realisation deny the ‘win’ from words of protest runs contrary to the day’s pleasure quota so, once more, a dissonance is needed. The habit is trained yet again.
So sure the talk at meal times is big and injustice or social failure is obvious. But free speech is like a challenge to own the things railed against and 99.9% of people choose dissonance over danger. Daily proof may be needed of the riches bought by working on the inside so there’s no need to feel like a slave. Habits grow more firm as life wears on. Most are perversely relieved once children come on the scene, a noble duty of care and in-built selfless love giving purpose to the servitude and justification for ‘stable’ continuity in everyday life. Opinions can be strident, sweeping and all-encompassing with ‘the world my kids inherit’ an alternative to hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance, to balance the psychological equations so the brain gives out pleasure for the win win win. So long as food and shelter doesn’t cease, ideals recede, whatever injustice happens to be today’s plat du jour serves instead and the details don’t matter enough to care about as you’ll have said it all before anyway. Evolution is also an opiate of the masses.
Nothing is more dangerous in this world of Everyone’s Got Talent than caring enough to stay on the same channel long enough you have to face a choice between acting on an ideal or knowing yourself a hypocrite or a coward over one more cause you once believed you’d fight to the death rather than let it fall into that oblivion called somebody’s else’s problem or just the way things are.
LOSING SHARED CROSS-GENERATION METAPHOR – THE CLASSICS – IS A BIGGER LOSS THAN IT SEEMS
Loss of the classics, millennial disconnect, means aging highlights the increasing obsolete shared metaphor that so enriched communication, gave a “read this, watch this” communion of some generally accepted canon. Technology creates distance with the hooks of earlier art, logic says why bother, so we all end up mere commentators on an interceding stage of development we won’t outlive and won’t interest any of the future commentators let alone one another.
MINDFULNESS – MEDITATION – EMBRACING DISINTEREST IN THE MOMENT
Sometimes things get chaotic and confusing and if you’re a version of control freak, the reaction most likely is going to be kinetic and defensive and violent until the calm is restored. Violent in the brain, maybe violent out of the mouth, occasionally violence in the angry arms and legs. Hair trigger but unpredictable.
Mediation helped a little, I guess. Mindfulness it’s called today. Focus on breath, dissociate conscious persona from the passing thoughts. Let emotions pass along with the thoughts, untouched by the self so less able to stack into a powerful feeling, less likely to overflow into overwhelming impetus that’d fill the mind, knock out prior mindstate and set going chain reaction perceptions from old non-filmed and remembered.